How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?
Lauryn Hill, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998
Now he from the BX, but he really soft,
And he from BK, but his guns don’t go off.
He from cop-killer Queens, but he still getting robbed,
And he from money-makin, but he ain’t on his job.
Now he from LA, but he’s scared to bang,
And he from Texas, but he will do the damn thing.
He’d stay in VA, but he is scared of the streets,
And he’s from Chi, but he’s sweet as a peach.
Keith Murray, “They Tell Me,” from EPMD’s We Mean Business, 2008
Was crazy poor, now I’m tryna get mad rich;
With a good girl…you couldn’t tell, cause she’s a bad bitch.
Ka, “Chamber,” Grief Pedigree, 2012
Reality’s really the individual’s mentality;
Some seek eternal life, while others seek fatality.
Juju, “Peace Akki,” from Al’ Tariq’s God Connections, 1996
To increase your life line, strengthen your heart.
Eat fish…that brain food will get you smart.
Yoga…deep meditational tactics,
You no good? Then just practice, cause practice makes perfect.
Stop burying your lies, and bring the truth to the surface.
Ghostface Killah, “Food,” from BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah’s Sour Soul, 2015
Christmas is over and this is my resolution:
To stop the confusion.
Let the fresh get fresh, and the stale get staler
And throw em in a pail of
Trash…with the other trash, and smash down the lid,
For all the weak shit they did.
Special Ed, “Ready 2 Attack,” Legal, 1990
Well I’m a sire, I set the microphone on fire,
Rap styles vary…and carry like Mariah.
Inspectah Deck, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’,” from Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), 1993
My nationality’s reality.
And, yo: a prejudiced man is of a devil mentality.
Kool G. Rap, “Erase Racism,” from Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo’s Wanted: Dead Or Alive, 1990
Now what’s the problem?
You ain’t nothin’ like you said on your album.
I thought you was wildin’,
Bustin’ your guns and runnin’ the Island.
You wasn’t violent, you was silent tryin’ to get college credits.
How pathetic…did it to get out of calisthenics.
Big Pun, “Drop It Heavy,” from Show & A.G.’s Full Scale EP, 1998
Rhymes are dynamic, voice is titanic,
Gigantic…suckers get frantic, and then panic.
A smooth talker, ‘cause I’m a Queens New Yorker,
My rhymes bring more Good Times than Jimmie Walker.
Kool G. Rap, “Bad to the Bone,” from Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo’s Wanted: Dead or Alive, 1990
Your whole alphabet in four seconds.
Now rewind it, play it again, and check it:
It’s correct. Well, what do you expect?
My mental capabilities are too high-tech!
King Sun, “It’s a Heat Up,” XL, 1989
It’s only human to express the way you really feel,
But that same humanity is my Achilles’ heel.
A leopard can’t change his spots and never will;
So I’m forever ill…now I can never chill.
– Black Thought, “I Remember,” from The Roots’ undun, 2011
I took a little trip into a deck of cards:
The Diamond Jack, Joker and the Ace of Spades
Was amazed at greater Cut Creator on the fade.
Then I played cards with the Queen of Clubs,
The Queen of Hearts with me cold fell in love.
As for the Queen of Diamonds, she don’t like men…
Because you know that a diamond is a girl’s best friend.
The double-trouble Spade was named the Deuce,
And the Joker acted stupid, so we gave him the news.
There was 52 cards, and I met everyone
That story is over, but my rhyme ain’t done.
LL Cool J, “My Rhyme Ain’t Done,” Bigger and Deffer, 1987
I start to think, and then I sink
Into the paper…like I was ink.
When I’m writing I’m trapped in between the lines,
I escape when I finish the rhyme…
I got soul.
Rakim, “I Know I Got Soul”, Paid in Full, 1987
He’s fallin’ apart, but we deny it,
Justifying that half-ass shit he dropped, we always buy it.
When he tell us he a genius, but it’s clearer lately
It’s been hard for him to look into the mirror lately.
There was a time when this nigga was my hero, maybe,
That’s the reason why his fall from grace is hard to take.
‘Cause I believed him when he said his shit was purer and he
The type of nigga swear he real, but all around him’s fake:
The women, the dickriders, you know, the yes men,
Nobody with the balls to say somethin’ to contest him.
So he grows out of control,
Into the person that he truly was all along, it’s startin’ to show.
Damn, wonder what happened?
Maybe it’s my fault for idolizing niggas
Based off the words they be rappin’.
J. Cole, “False Prophets,” Dreamville, 2016
We love it where we from, but we kick it where we at.
Ladybug Mecca, “It’s Good to Be Here,” from Digable Planets’ Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), 1993
Flawless victory, you niggas can’t do shit to me:
Physically, lyrically, hypothetically, realistically.
– Big Pun, “Beware,” Capital Punishment, 1998
Save the temptation, money, keep the limos;
Cause that’s not hip-hop, that’s a fashion show.
– PMD, “Shadē Business,” Shadē Business, 1994
Got a freaky, freaky, freaky-freaky flow, Control the mic like Fidel Castro.
– Jeru Tha Damaja, “Come Clean,” The Sun Rises in the East, 1994
Penny for your thoughts, a nickel for your dreams
A dime for your goals and a quarter in your jeans
Trying to make a dollar outta forty-one cents
Caught up in the barbed wire, shorty on the fence
– Masta Ace, “Young Black Intelligent (Y.B.I.),” The Falling Season, 2016
Rap is an art, you can’t own no loops.
It’s how you hook ‘em up and the rhyme style, troop.
So don’t even think you could say someone bit
Off your weak beat, come on, you need to quit.
Guru, “Take it Personal,” from Gang Starr’s Daily Operation, 1992
Rip every stage with grace, look right dead in they face,
Live the Tribe principle of havin’ impeccable taste.
Enjoy that breath like that one was your last one left,
If you don’t believe me, there’s truly life after death.
– Q-Tip, “Black Spasmodic,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, 2016
Funny what seven days can change…
It was all good just a week ago.
Jay-Z, “A Week Ago,” Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, 1998
You need to smile a lil’ bit, frown a lil’ less.
Read a couple of books, and then smoke a lil’ sess.
Get your mind right, but don’t OD,
Cause overdoin’ it ain’t doin’ it with quality.
– Posdnuous of De La Soul, “Smile a Lil Bit,” from Oh No’s Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms, 2006
And we started off as kids, stomachs’ touching our ribs,
In them streets all night like we ain’t have nowhere to live.
– Meek Mill, “Cold Hearted,” Dreams Worth More Than Money, 2015
Life is love, heartache and strain,
Yet the strength to overcome it all keeps me sane.
OC, “Gotta Luv It,” from Ray West and OC’s Ray’s Café, 2014
I’m not the one to kiss ass for the top position,
I take mine off the top like a politician.
Where I’m from, doin dirt is a part of livin…
I got mouths to feed, I gots to get it.
– Dead Prez, “Hell Yeah (Pimp the System),” RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta, 2004
You can’t raise a man if you ain’t one yourself,
Getting all your cred from the gun on your belt.
– Troy Ave, “Drug Game,” Roland Collins, 2016
I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses
Can’t define how I be dropping these mockeries.
Lyrically perform armed robbery,
Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me…
– Inspectah Deck, “Triumph,” from Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu-Tang Forever, 1997
I’m sautéing emcees with fried rice up in the wok without the MSG and chopped celery.
– Redman, “Da Ill Out,” Muddy Waters, 1996
Survive the droughts? I wish you well.
How sick am I? I wish you health.
I wish you wheels, I wish you wealth,
I wish you insight so you could see for yourself.
– Jay-Z, “American Dreamin,” American Gangster, 2007
God, money, war…
If heaven free, what we kill for money for?
They say, “When it rains it pours,” but it rain on the poor;
So you ain’t really rich if what’s rich ain’t in your core.
– King Los, “God Money War,” God, Money, War, 2015
Truth brings light, light refracts off the mirror,
Visions of yourself and error could never be clearer.
The truth is that you ugly…
Not on the outside, but in the inside.
On the outside, you frontin’ you lovely.
– Pharoahe Monch, “The Truth,” Internal Affairs, 1999
They say I’m so low key, I’m socially awkward,
Only those that really know me are the ones that I talk with.
They smile in the light, hate in the dark,
You call it beef, to me it’s just a fuckin’ walk in the park.
– Nas, “I Do It for Hip-Hop,” from Ludacris’ Theater of the Mind, 2008
Come on, let’s be real:
You only think you can deal.
That’s why i’m holdin’ the steel,
I rock shit to make you feel
Like, damn that looks easy! Maybe I can do it.
So you take a fat beat and put your wack rhymes to it.
And God only knows what can make you pursue it,
For those who can’t dance and clap your hands to it.
– Everlast, “No Doubt,” from House of Pain’s Truth Crushed to Earth Will Rise Again, 1996
Microphone checka, swingin’ sword lecture,
Closin’ down the sector, supreme neck protector.
– Method Man, “Da Rockwilder,” from Meth and Red’s Blackout, 1999
They never understood, many people were so slow.
My funky type of rhyme, and my style is pyscho.
– Kool Keith, “Raise It Up,” from Ultramagnetic MC’s The Four Horsemen, 1993
To try and to fail:
The two things I hate.
Succeed, and this rap game:
The two things that’s great.
– Jay-Z, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” The Blueprint, 2001.
And when I say “stupid,”
I mean “stupid fresh.”
– Beastie Boys, “Hey Ladies,” Paul’s Boutique, 1989
There’s a certain mystique when I speak that you notice,
‘Cause that’s sort of unique…’cause you know it’s me.
My poetry’s deep, and I’m Stillmatic the way I flow to this beat.
You can’t sit still; it’s like trying to smoke crack and go to sleep.
– Eminem, “Love Me,” from 8 Mile Soundtrack, 2002
Life’s a bitch, who are we to judge each other?
I know I got faults, I ain’t the only muthafucka.
– Guru, “No Shame in my Game,” from Gang Starr’s Daily Operation, 1992
My crew’s all about loot.
Fuck looking cute,
I’m strictly Timb boots and Army-certified suits.
Puffin L’s, laid back, enjoying the smell,
In the Bridge, getting down…it ain’t hard to tell.
Havoc, “Survival of the Fittest,” from Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, 1995.
From the bottom of my heart, that’s where the love starts:
The love for breakdancing, my love for the art.
And with this love, I do hip-hop from the soul,
A real MC, who never sweats how many copies are sold.
Yeah, I want to go gold, platinum, et ceteras,
But why put out some wackness when no one will respect ya?
I’m staying true, nuff respect to those that paved the way,
From Bambaata down to Shah (that be my DJ).
Without my peeps, I dont know how the hell I’d make it, word…
Sometimes I feel that my career is headed for the curb.
One love for the lendin’ hand and givin’ all your help,
Believing in me when I didn’t believe in my own self.
The Abstract, with whom I’m always making rugged tunes,
Kid Hood, restin’ in heaven, I hope to see you soon.
Phife Dawg, “Peace, Prosperity, and Paper,” from the High School High soundtrack, 1996. More from the Five Foot Assassin. Rest in power to Malik Taylor, better known as Phife from A Tribe Called Quest. 1970-2016.
Question: Why is that MC’s be wack
And major labels wanna sign that crap?
Phife Dawg, “One Two Shit,” A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement, 1998. More from Phife. Rest in forever peace, Malik Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg, who died Wednesday at the age of 45. 1970-2016.
Your whole appearance is a lie and it could never be true.
And if you really loved yourself, then you would try and be you.
Phife, “Butter,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, 1991. More from Phife. Rest in forever peace, Malik Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg, who died Wednesday at the age of 45. 1970-2016.
I like ‘em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian.
Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation.
Phife, “Electric Relaxation,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, 1993. More from Phife. Rest in forever peace, Malik Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg, who died Wednesday at the age of 45. 1970-2016.
Used to have a crush on Dawn from En Vogue.
It’s not like honey dip would wanna get with me,
But just in case I own more condoms than TLC.
Phife Dawg, “Oh My God,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Maruaders, 1993. Rest in forever peace, Malik Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg, who died Wednesday at the age of 45. 1970-2016.